You are here

FTC cracks down on tech support scams

Share this page

screen shot showing "errors" on computer“Your computer is damaged ... we’ll help you fix it.” It’s the latest twist on tech support scams: Scammers sell software online that claims to increase your computer’s performance. They lure you to their websites with pop-up ads or web searches. Then, they tell you to call a phone number to activate or register the software. On the phone, they ask for remote access to your computer and then tell you that your computer has many errors that need to be fixed immediately.

It’s all part of their plan to sell you bogus “security” or “technical support” products or services. Really, your computer is fine. They want to charge you – possibly hundreds of dollars – for software and services that you don’t need and that doesn’t help.

The FTC sued several of these phony tech support companies – New York-based Pairsys, Florida-based Inbound Call Experts (ICE) and Florida-based Vast Tech Support – for misrepresenting that they found security or performance issues on consumers’ computers. At the FTC’s request, three federal judges halted these alleged scams pending trial. 

What can you do to avoid similar tech support scams?

  • Don’t give control of your computer to someone who says they need to activate software. Instead, look carefully at the software instructions to learn how to activate the software yourself.
  • Don’t give control of your computer to someone who calls you out of the blue claiming to be from tech support. Instead, hang up and call the company at a number you know to be correct.
  • Never provide your credit card information, financial information, or passwords to someone who claims to be from tech support.
  • Learn how to protect your computer from malware.

 

 

What if you think you might be a victim of one of these tech support scams?

  • If you paid for bogus tech support services or software with a credit card, then call your credit card company to reverse the charges.
  • If you think someone may have accessed your personal or financial information, then learn more about how to lower your risk for identity theft.
  • Get rid of malware that the fraudsters may have installed. Download legitimate security software and delete anything that it finds as a problem.
  • Change any passwords that you gave out. If you use the same passwords for other accounts, then change those too.
  • If you think you may be a victim of a tech support scam, let us know.

The FTC’s website has more information about how to spot and stop tech support scams.

Comments

I have been a victim of this fraud also and have made a formal complaint with FTC. Clicked on e-mail link 4/24/17 -- entire computer screen lit up with verbal and written warnings (including a constant alarm sound) from "Microsoft" that I had been infected and must call now 888-203-6809 or my Microsoft service would be terminated. Allowed technician (strong India accent) to take control of computer. He showed me "infected files" -- viruses, malware, spyware, etc. To "clean" computer and protect it for 5 years, I paid $379.99. Sent an e-check made out to UnifiedSols. The free Chicka-PC Shield was loaded on my computer, as was a link to "on-line" help from Onsol Network. A internet savvy friend told me I'd been had. I stopped payment on the e-check, uninstalled "on-line" help from Onsol Network and the Chica PC shield, turned off remote access, changed passwords and scanned my computer. Yesterday I received a call supposedly from Northstar Location (debt collection) on my landline, probably because I stopped payment on the check before the scammers could cash it. I am embarrassed but wanted to warn others. Beware of Onsol Network and UnifiedSols. Apparently these scammers morph into different organizations to avoid being caught -- same scam, different entities. Do not let anyone gain remote access to your computer that you do not know.

Please report this to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database to help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies with investigations.

The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database

Bridget: On 4/16/2017, I filed a report with the FTC about Geek Backer LLC and was given a reference number. I also posted something to this thread on 4/16 just to warn people about Geek Backer. The Microsoft Support team, which had to clean up the mess that Geek Backer LLC left on my computer(spyware and other files which would have had detrimental effects on my computer),verified that Geek Backer had scammed me and advised me not to pay them because they are a scam. And, at the request of the MS Support technician who worked on my computer in the wake of Geek Backer, I also filled out a scam survey at the MS Support site. After finding out that Geek Backer LLC is a scam, I blocked them from my email account and from my cellphone. However, despite blocking them from my cellphone, since 5/10, they have been leaving voice messages on my phone asking that I call them immediately and demanding that I pay them. I have ignored their voice messages because they scammed me into believing that there was a problem with my home network when there never really had been one. I don't intend to pay them for their scam. On 5/10, when I started receiving voice messages from Geek Backer, I filed another report with the FTC (referring to the reference number I was given for my 4/16 FTC report) about Geek Backer's harassing phone calls, and was assigned yet another reference number. Today (5/12/2017), I also filed a complaint with the Nevada Atty General's office-- Geek Backer LLC is located in Nevada. My question is: Even though you stated in your response to Embarrassed Ellen that the information from a report to the FTC goes into a secure law enforcement database, does the FTC actually look at the reports that are filed and do they ever contact the person who filed the report? Or, is it up to the person filing the report to contact the FTC and give them the reference number and ask for the status of the complaint they filed with the FTC? I only received and automated confirmation from the FTC that they had received my report along with the reference number. While I know that the FTC has many of these types of scams that they're dealing with, it would be nice to know if my report/case is even being looked at and/or investigated. The other question is: If Geek Backer LLC decides to send me to a collection agency, how do I handle that situation? Is telling the collection agency that there's an investigation of Geek Backer's scam open and I've been advised not to pay them sufficient? Or, is there more I need to do? I would appreciate any advice on this since I think I've done what I can with the complaint reports to FTC and the Nevada Atty General. Thanks.

You asked what happens to complaints that go into the law enforcement database, which is formally known as the Consumer Sentinel Network.

After people submit complaints to FTC.gov/complaint, the FTC and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies review the complaints. One or more agencies may start an investigation based on complaints. If law enforcement investigation starts, you might not hear about it, or you might get a call from an investigator to ask about your experience.  You can call back to add information to your complaint, but you probably won't get information about what is happening with your complaint, because that is related to law enforcement.

If you used your credit card to pay for services, and were charged for something you didn't accept, or were charged for something that wasn't delivered as was agreed to, you could file a dispute with your credit card company. This FTC article about disputing credit card charges explains your rights under the fair credit billing act.

Yesterday I received a call on my landline purportedly from Northstar Location services, a debt collector. Call back number was 855-211-4583. Today another call supposedly from them -- 866-224-9821. This is occurring because I stopped payment on my check to the scammers. Interesting to note that Northstar's website has a different number. These internet scammers are the scum of the earth.

Greetings Bridgett, I filed a complaint with the FTC on April 24. The calls I am receiving supposedly from Northstar collection services started on April 26. Today the call was from 866-224-9821. Since I stymied the scammers by stopping payment on the check, they have resorted to intimidation by calling my land line. Is there a way I can update my report? Thank you.

Greetings Bridgett, I filed a complaint with the FTC on April 25. I filed another report today May 4 as the scam continues to develop. Since I stymied the scammers by stopping payment on the check, I am receiving daily calls supposedly from Northstar Location Services (debt collector) and told to call 866-224-9821. Also being called by "Sagra" from Network Solutions (the scammers) from 559-201-0998 and told to call back 888-203-6809. "Sagra" said that the check (the one I stopped payment on) would be submitted for payment today and cashed by Geek Sane Solutions

2nd time they've called saying "phone support" and then wanted to give me back my refund. I told them that they are fraudulent and asked them where they are located and what the business is called. He said "Osama bin Laden" and hung up. NO JOKE... not sure how my number got out. But they called from a 1-800 number. Beware of these thieves.

I'm not sure if this will help others, but figured I'd offer it up:

If you can find out the location of the company that is scamming you or find a website for them that gives this information, you can file complaints with both the Attorney General's office and with the Better Business Bureau in that state. Additionally, you can file a complaint against the company with the Attorney General's office in your state, especially if you know only the name of the company, but not the location. And, it might be helpful to also contact your US Senators and let them know about your situation-- your US SenatorS may be able to help you or at the very least, pass the information on to someone in the US Senate who is serving on a committee dealing with scams. Having been scammed by Geek Backer LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada, in addition to filing complaints against them with the FTC, I also filed complaints against them with the Attorney Generals' Office in both Nevada and in my state, contacted the US Senator from my state who serves on the US Senate Judiciary committee, and also filed a complaint with the Nevada Better Business Bureau. The Nevada Better Business Bureau got Geek Backer LLC off my back almost immediately. Within a few days of my having filed my complaint with the Nevada Better Business Bureau, Geek Backer LLC voided out the invoice they had sent me (which I had been ignoring and never paid or intended to) and have stopped calling and harrassing me. So, I think that people don't lose anything by pursuing other avenues in addition to filing a complaint with the FTC.

I did some googling to find out who, in the US Senate, is sitting on the committee dealing with scams. Senator Susan Collins from Maine and Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. from Pennsylvania sit on the Senate Aging Committee that is investigating scams against Senior Citizens. Perhaps either they or someone from their office can point you to a US Senate committee and/or Senator dealing with scams against people who aren't seniors.

I hope this information will help someone.

Here's a follow-on to my 5/29/2017 post in which I suggested that, in addition to filing complaints with the FTC, victims of scams also contact the Attorney General's office in both the state in which the scammers are located, and also their own state's Attorney General: Today, I received a packet from the Attorney General's office in my state in response to the complaint I filed with their office against Geek Backer LLC. Included in the package, along with my state's Attorney General's response to me, were various informational sheets and packets on protecting yourself and your privacy from scammers, a list of scams targeting computer owners, and info on debt collection and a consumer's rights. Some good information among the literature. And, not only has my state's Attorney General forwarded my complaint to an assistant attorney general in my state who is reviewing and investigating the practices of a number of tech support agencies and investigating high tech scams, but my state's Attorney General has also contacted the Geek Backer LLC manager requesting that he/Geek Backer provide the Attorney General's office with in-depth,detailed information about various aspects, including, among several other requests, a detailed description of any business relationship between Geek Backer and Microsoft, a detailed explanation as to why my computer displayed a message that claimed that it had a problem and instructed me to call Microsoft, a detailed description of all actions Geek Backer reps took while remotely accessing my computer, including a list of all programs their reps installed and removed, all information in Geek Backer's records indicating that my computer had experienced a problem at the time the pop-up window displayed on my computer. While Geek Backer LLC probably won't respond to my state's attorney general's request for the above information, It was heartening for me to see that an Attorney General didn't just blow off my complaint. And, even though the Nevada Better Business Bureau got Geek Backer LLC off my back in terms of them calling me and demanding payment, and they've stopped calling me, I think it's good that scammers like Geek Backer LLC are put on notice that federal and local agencies are aware of their scamming and that there could be some follow-up regarding their scamming activities. I'm also hoping that the Nevada Attorney General's office will follow up on the complaint I filed with them, and hoping to get a response from my state's US Senator who sits on the US Senate Judiciary committee. I think the important thing, in my receiving a response from the Attorney General, is to encourage anyone posting in this FTC thread who has been scammed to escalate in other ways in addition to filing complaints with the FTC. Help from other federal and state agencies may be of help to the FTC as they continue to investigate and crack down on scammers.

The Attorney General's office in the state I live in suggested that since most tech support scams are national or international in nature, in addition to reporting them to the FTC and offices of Attorney Generals, reports of the tech support scam should also be filed with the FBI and the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task force in your state. You can also file a report at the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3)at this link:  www.ic3.gov/ default.aspx Here's a link to the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force site. You can enter your city and state to find a field office near you.  www.secretservice.gov/ investigation/ #field I hope this helps anyone who has been the victim of a high tech crime and posted to this site.

I appreciate your blog and warn other peoples about this type of nasty tech support scam. Thanks a lot....!

I was having problems with Yahoo. Members of my contact list were getting false emails for them to send money to get me out of a fix in a foreign country. I contacted Yahoo Support or thought I did. A Mike Williams IT got in my and told me that they needed to get into my computer to fix this. He sold me Malwarebytes or I thought he did. I paid 49.99 each for 3 computers to be covered by Malwarebytes for 1 year. 30 days laters Malwarebytes sent me a message that I only had the 1 month free trial version and wanted me to buy the program for 1 year protection. I had already paid this Mike Williams nearly 150.00 dollars for this which I guess he pocketed and downloaded the free trial only. Watch Out for this scam I've since deleted all that he planted on my computer system.

I need my information fixed on my ssc and date of birth I tried ordering a credit card and some numbers got messed up now im not able to order any credit cards please fix this??

You probably have to go to a Social Security office to fix those problems with your Social Security card. You can use your zip code to look up your local office on the Social Security website.

I fell for it too. At the time I was web surfing and got a pop-up that locked my screen. In retrospect I should have just rebooted in safe mode,but hidesite... I have a good security software now because I noticed them accessing my computer when I went to shut down it would say to wait,downloading upgrades. But when I went in control panel,no recent upgrades had been downloaded. So I start just pushing the power button if I saw the upgrade notice.And then the daily calls started. They say that they were monitoring, as per our service agreements and my computer is at risk.I ask them to identify themselves because they never call from the number they gave me and funny each time I end up with a supervisor, they give me names from movie actors, each time it's a different company name. And when I said I spoke to so and so yesterday, they say, that wasn't us. So,how do you just stop the calls? And how do you find out who they really are?

i in a hectic day feeling completely vulnerable got an error message on my computer ,went on a site and they fixed the error and sold me a lifetime protection policy for $1000.00 , I have never been sure if I did the right thing ,I gave them access to my computer and they had some control on my accounts -I suffer with anxiety and wasn't thinking clearly has anyone heard of xpert technologies

The company might have added malicious software to your computer. To be safe, you should:

  • First, stop shopping, banking, and doing other activities online that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
  • Update the security software that is on your computer.  Then use the software to scan your computer for viruses and spyware. Delete anything that the software identifies as a problem. You may have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
  • Check your internet browser to see if it has tools that will delete malware, or will reset the browser to its original settings.
  • If your computer is covered by a warranty that offers free tech support, contact the computer manufacturer. Before you call, write down the model and serial number of your computer, the name of any software you installed, and a short description of the problem.

i have used many microsoft products in the past and still continue to, apple is no better. if scam is such a huge problem why doesn't America take care of it?

I got scammed when I called THEM - thinking they were Epson. There ad is at the top of the google Search when you type in Epson and probably when you type in other standard company names also. Avoid ORANGE TECH SERVICES!!!

I get called about 4 to 5 times a year. I just tell them I don’t own a computer and say good bye. I don’t mess with it anymore. The Remove me from the list comment and Do Not Call List isn’t effective.

AVAST has gained control of Puriform. Many people used their CCleaner for years without problems. Now that they own it the next time you update don't be surprised when you see AVAST software installed on your computer. Yes they are using a well like respected product to implant their software on your computer without your permission and do not allow you to decline. You will find it very difficult to remove. Looks like they copied the Windows 10 implant that Microsoft did. Your only hope is to file a complaint at the FTC.GOV site!

I have had the "Windows Repair" scam twice in the last year. Mine was the screen on my computer went crazy and then it said to call this number, it also had the Microsoft logo and everything. The first time it happened, I called. When the person on the other end said he was a tech that could remove the malware, I asked for his name, he was obviously not from the US, and he said his name was Steven, but he could not pronounce it correctly. So I asked for his ID number, at that time he got nasty and said, you you want the malware to take over your computer? I told him Yes. I finally got some fake number, and right before I hung up, I told him thank you for calling me and giving me your number, because I am going to call Microsoft and report you. And I did.

They just tried to scam me, too! Indian-sounding guy said his name is Sam and that he's in North Carolina. Tried to scam me into paying ASAP. Also tricked his way onto my computer through a screen-sharing session. Beware of these creeps — they're master social engineers.

Thanks for sharing the information. Keep updating more blogs.

I was hacked. they froze up my computer
called me saying I was hacked . I paid them nearly 300 dollars. they said they were digi tec. I learned a hard lesson.yes it was correct I have a check listed for it proof it happened

This just happened to my dad. They pretended to be Microsoft. An error message popped up and he called the number. 1-888-399-0525. Unfortunately, he believed them and paid $499.99 for their bogus Tech Support Plan: Lifetime Complete Security.
[I searched for this phone number and came up with a Tech Support site. No complete sentences anywhere on the page. Clearly not American. ]
They installed apps on his PC too. Unplugging his PC from the internet now and changing all his passwords. Hopefully we'll be able to reverse the payment on his credit card. My dad is typically quite suspicious.

What's wrong with these dumb credit card companies letting themselves get ripped off when the fix is so easy my 10 year old granddaughter solved it. She says, Papa, why they don't just text you a different pin number every time you buy something. HELLO.

June 7, 2019. While on a game site I was abruptly kicked off with a red box in center of a blank page as follows: GOOGLE CHROME CRITICAL ERROR!!! In short, I had a "critical error" and needed to call "Microsoft Support at 888-581-5803." I called; a man with an Indian accent tried to have me give him control of my computer. I put him on hold, telling him I needed to get keyboard from storage since I had a touch screen computer. In the interim, I played Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It". When I returned, he asked me to give him Windows+R access. I declined, stating that I'd read scam reports about this phone number. He vehemently denied that he would scam me; I told him no thanks and hung up.

Beware of scammers using phone number 833-265-5167. Clamming to be Microsoft and your due a refund

An Online Computer Support Cooperation gave this phone number three times to call. "Your online account has expired. call 844-920-6222 immediately. $499.99 will be taken from your credit card.

Pages

Leave a Comment